Next year, youth elections will be held for Young Labour. BAME Labour asked young BAME Labour members questions that they wanted to ask the candidates. We forwarded them to candidates for National Chair of Young Labour, the NEC Youth Rep and London Young Labour Chair. Here are their responses.
Ben Butterworth is running for Chair of London Young Labour.
The number of BAME exec members in Young Labour nationally, and in Young Labour groups, is consistently low. This is particularly striking in London, where the majority of the population is not white British. That’s why, as a start point, I will ban all white panels. We must stop ignoring black and ethnic minority voices in our politics. London is not all white – far from it – so London Young Labour must never be all white, either.
There can often be a lack of consideration for different groups when arranging events – such as consistently having socials in pubs, and holding campaigns on Sunday mornings, when some are at church. This needs to change, with socials that are comfortable for non-drinkers. I’m ready to roll out cakes for comrades – just one alternative to the typical drinks social. For socials that are drinks events and dinners, there should be a conscious effort to hold these in a mix of venues that makes members from non-white heritages feel more included. London is ideal for making this happen.
Young Labour doesn’t have access to membership lists, so it’s difficult to keep a track of the figures. There should be monitoring of the diversity of those engaging with the organisation. For example, I have arranged a free visit to the EU parliament, and set a quota of one third places for BAME members, which was met. There must also be a guarantee of a BAME voice on any panel event, and BAME voices at all prominent national events – the people we present as role models must reflect the diversity of identities in our movement.
There was a notable upturn in BAME support for the Conservatives at the last general election, while at the same time they selected more BAME candidates in winnable constituencies than Labour did. When 7 in 10 black voters vote Labour, but there are hardly 7 black Labour MPs, we have a problem.
There should be a BAME place reserved on every parliamentary shortlist, and in constituencies with high non-white British populations, the NEC should instruct that at least half of candidates be BAME. There must be quotas on devolved lists that guarantee BAME representation. It also goes right through the ranks of the party: in party HQ, parliamentary staff, the Leader’s office, there must be better representation. The issue of under-representation needs to be resolved in our internal structures as much as in our politicians.
Ben is one of two candidates running for Chair of London Young Labour. To read the other candidate, Rachael Ward’s response, click here.